With the recent Supreme Court ruling eliminating race as a basis for college admission and presuming this ruling will have extended implications in other environments for the future, I thought that some thoughts on the unconstitutional concept of Affirmative Action were in order. I have found that most of the discussions on this topic tend to produce more heat than light. They also tend to make a very simple concept unduly difficult to understand. Its origin, design, and intent are quite straightforward. Simple that is, unless someone is trying to distort your understanding for their own purposes. So, let me try to make simple what is… quite simple:
In 2016 I was trapped into watching a debate between Hillary Clinton and Barry Sanders. In the small group that surrounded me was the head of the psych department at a major university…a resolute Leftist. The topic of Affirmative Action came up. After preliminary sparring, I offered the following accommodating thoughts…or so I believed.
(To paraphrase) I told her, “Many of those, like me, considered to be conservatives, would have less problem with Affirmative Action if it was the result of economic deprivation. Could you support AA based on economic deprivation?” I went on, “I find it inappropriate that the son of a Black millionaire be given an advantage over a poor coal miners son from West Virginia.” I modified this with, “There are, however, many situations where I could never support AA under any circumstance, particularly where it effects the competency of someone in a critical position or one in which it would cause all standards to move downward.” I knew she couldn’t agree with all of that but presumed it would create a conversation worth having.
Her face painfully squinched up, as only the face of a Liberal can squinch up, as she thought about her answer and, after much internal deliberation, she said only one word, “No.” I said in surprised response “No? “I’ve given you several things to consider and your only comment is NO. Can we talk about it?” She paused then said, and this is the kicker, “I am not emotionally able to consider any other variation of affirmative action except the one dedicated entirely to African Americans.” This was rather startling, even from a Leftist, and I realized there was little point in taking this any further.
Why tell you this long story? I do so because it illustrates many of the issues surrounding this contentious concept. I will use her as the voice of the Left as I make my comments:
1) First, the Left sees AA as a way of manipulating (controlling) the Black population. They realize if it became based on a real concept like economics, and not race, that ability would be severely diminished.
2) The issue of fairness never enters their mindset. They have no concern if someone who doesn’t need a leg up gets it, or someone who needed a helping hand doesn’t. They couldn’t care less. Nor do they have any concern with undoing real discrimination, should that take place.
3) They are oblivious to the negative implications of the impact of AA. They don’t care if our doctors, lawyers, and teachers are ill prepared to meet the rigors of their jobs. Nor do they care if the insertion of underqualified Blacks (or anyone) tends to push all standards downward.
4) It also illustrates, as with most positions taken by the Left, that their adherence has no logic…only an emotional or political commitment.
5) Finally, it demonstrates that the Left is unwilling (and unable) to debate any issue in a meaningful manner. Once challenged, even by someone who was trying to be somewhat moderate in their thoughts, they are unable to bring themselves to the willingness to debate their positions.
I’ll give you a skeletal background on the concept of Affirmative Action. First, it is the opposite of Equal Employment Opportunity. In fact, you cannot support both these concepts…it must be one or the other. EEO says that the best person should be chosen for a job (or entrance into college) based on their qualifications. Everyone of legal concern or common sense completely supports EEO. The only ones who may not are those who are proponents of Affirmative Action.
Affirmative Action has no concern with the best person being chosen. Its concern is only that there is not “disparate impact” on African Americans. Disparate Impact occurs when the number of African Americans chosen is less than the population they’re being drawn from….18% in the population, 20% chosen…all is well…no Disparate Impact. If, however, it is 18% in the population and only 10% are chosen, this is Disparate Impact, and a state of totally unproven de facto discrimination has taken place.
Affirmative Action came into being when EEO was not producing the results that were desired. Therefore, as I indicated, it is the opposite of AA. What should be immediately noted is that AA never concerns itself with determining if discrimination takes place. It also has no concern for specific African Americans and the damage they may have experienced. If the numbers work out that’s all AA is concerned with.
There is an absurd concept that drives this patently ridiculous and unconstitutional concept. AA presumes that statistics will hold accurately, that is there will be no disparate impact, unless discrimination has taken place. In addition, it suggests, that those who accept the disparate impact are saying that Blacks are genetically inferior…that is, if it’s not caused by discrimination, it must be because of Black genetic inferiority.
This ridiculous presumption leaves out entirely individual choice and a myriad of other considerations whereby Blacks may not have prepared or chosen to participate in a given area. Somewhat like the Japanese may not prepare to be in the NBA. Maybe they could if they did…but they don’t.
If there are underlying factors that diminish the ability of Blacks to qualify in statistically normed numbers, then those underlying factors should be addressed. If its education or poor mentorship or no library in the home…whatever it might be, it is those things that need to be corrected. What can’t happen is that these deficiencies are ignored, and people are placed in environments where they underperform, or standards are reduced so it appears they have. AA is too dangerous a concept to leave in place as it diminishes the overall competency of our entire nation. Beyond all that, it does nothing to concern itself with real discrimination where and when it ever takes place.
It is a concept that, by its nature, tends to divide us. Perhaps, knowing the Left, that is their entire intent.
But aren’t people helped regardless of all that? Well…no. Thomas Sowell concluded a study of affirmative action programs around the world, from India and Malaysia to Nigeria and the United States. His findings?
1) Such programs have at best a negligible impact on the groups they are intended to assist.
2) Within the groups designated by government as recipients of preferential treatment, the benefits have usually gone disproportionately to those members already more fortunate.
3) Group polarization has tended to increase in the wake of preferential programs, with non-preferred groups reacting adversely, in ways ranging from political backlash to mob violence and civil war.
Basically, AA is a policy that is harmful in its impact, doesn’t help those it is designed to help, helps those who don’t need it, and causes social divisiveness. It is only sustained as a method of manipulation for political advantage.
But isn’t the diversity that Affirmative Action produces a good thing in itself? My next essay will deal with the problems surrounding demographic diversity.